Kyrgyzstan: Presidential polls show significant improvements in democracy building

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

BISHKEK, 11 July (IRIN) - Acting President Kurmanbek Bakiyev won a landslide victory in presidential elections held on Sunday in Kyrgyzstan. Major election watchdogs said the polls showed significant improvements meeting international election standards in many areas, yet there were still some aspects that required further improvement.

"Elections passed peacefully within the legal framework. Announced election results reflect free choice of polls. Election process shortcomings could not influence overall election results," Edil Baisaloff, head of the local pro-democracy NGO, Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society (CDCS), said to IRIN in the capital, Bishkek, on Monday. CDCS monitored polls in 70 percent of the polling stations and deployed some 3,000 observers throughout the country.

Of the six candidates, Bakiyev got more than 88 percent of votes and the results of the exit-poll survey matched preliminary results announced by the Central Election Commission (CEC) on Monday. According to CEC, the voter turnout was around 74 percent despite record high temperatures which reached almost 40 degrees Celsius.

Exit poll organisers said elections had united the nation reducing the importance of regional origin and the clan identity in voting.

"According to survey results, more than 50 percent of voters voted for one candidate for the sake of democracy building and stability in the country," Gulnara Sagynbaeva, one of the exit poll organisers, told IRIN.

On Bishkek's streets many voters interviewed by IRIN endorsed that sentiment, saying that they voted for stability and better prospects for the future after the elections.

Nikolay Luchinskiy, a retired worker, said that he voted for Bakiev and his partner Feliks Kulov because he wanted to choose a leader who could deliver a peaceful life.

Health official Nikolay Slesarev said: "At the end of the day we need to choose someone. Bakiyev would be better than corrupted [former president Askar] Akayev. If he would abuse office, then another revolution will happen," he said.

"Those 88 percent of votes for Bakiyev confirms that 24 March revolution was a popular revolution and the resignation of the previous authoritarian and corrupted regime was right. This victory just gives legitimacy to Bakiyev and his team. In general, people voted not for the candidate but against the previous regime and corruption," Baisaloff said.

However, some election watchdogs said that there were shortcomings as well, with inaccuracies in voter lists being one of them. The International Republican Institute (IRI) observers noted attempts to inflate turnout through the manipulation of mobile voting and altering election results during tabulation.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which also monitored Sunday's election, said that they marked tangible progress towards meeting OSCE and other international commitments for democratic elections, although the vote count proved to be problematic.

Fundamental civil and political rights were generally respected and there was an improved media environment, OSCE spokesman Kimino Kiljunen said in a statement, adding that the "removal of persons on the basis of their known absence from the country, despite [their] retaining formal residence registration and outside the provisions for out-of-country voting. The objective appeared to be to increase the percentage turnout by decreasing the number of registered voters."

For example, in the southern Leylek district some 7,000 out of 47,000 voters were 'deleted' from the voters' list, which effectively boosted the proportion of those on the register actually voting. The goal of the election was to reach a 50 percent voter turnout in order to make the elections legitimate, CDCS reported.

However, in general, election watchdogs viewed the elections as a positive step in the direction of democratising the country.

Michael Trend, International Republican Institute's (IRI) election observation delegation co-leader, confirmed on Monday, that the 10 July election demonstrated measurable progress in Kyrgyzstan's democratic movement.

"Improvements in election administration contributed to increases in transparency and fairness. The elections were a significant improvement over the parliamentary elections of February and March 2005 and provide an important example in democratic development for other countries in the region," Trend said.


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